Many of us have experienced the offer of flexible working from an employer, where we are offered to shoe horn a five day week into four days, or the offer of going part-time where your salary reduces by 20% but the workload doesn’t.
Flexibility at work is a key pillar of our culture at Emberson. It enables us all to have balance in our work life. We recently asked all Emberson employees what are the top three things that they like the most working at Emberson. The answers were varied, but the top answer, with 90% of the answers was flexibility. The UK Government define it as “Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, e.g. having flexible start and finish times, or working from home.”
When we dug further, flexibility, for our teams, covered three distinct areas of how, when and where we work.
How we work
It’s simple. At Emberson, it is up to the teams what services they offer and the clients they work for. Our people are intrinsically motivated – they love what they do. We are open about the business numbers and reward is clearly linked to team performance. With open visibility of the financials – everyone is making a contribution and are appreciated for it. Everyone has a voice and is heard and listened to – we are not hierarchical.
When we work
Our teams are truly trusted. Management is through team objectives NOT command and control. Teams and individuals are actively encouraged to take responsibility, lead and make decisions. Everyone is encouraged to work when it best suits them, rather than rigidly sticking to 9 to 5. Many of our team have young families and they can be there for the school drop off and key milestones – a school play or football match. We actively encourage the wellbeing of our people and recognise our role in enabling this. Part of wellbeing is physical and mental health and teams are encouraged to pursue their chosen sport or activity, when it suits them.
Anecdotal evidence has long suggested that exercise in healthy adults enhances creative thinking. As we are creative to our core, this is fundamentally important to us.
Indeed, the philosopher Henry David Thoreau said in 1851: “the moment my legs begin to move my thoughts begin to flow – as if I had given vent to the stream at the lower end and consequently new fountains flowed into it at the upper.”
A study in December 2013 focused on ‘The impact of physical exercise on convergent and divergent thinking’. It found that divergent thinking (the ability to come up with ideas of equal merit to solve a problem) was improved after exercise in fit adults. Although not conclusive, the study also found that the same adults’ convergent thinking (the ability to select the right course of action from the ideas created) was particularly enhanced after exercise.
Where we work
The third pillar to flexibility is about where we work. We embrace the right to be free to roam: not chained to the same desk in an office and asked to be creative in the same spot time and time again. We work where we are most comfortable – here, there and everywhere. Some of us work from offices at home, others chop and change. Some use creative shared workplaces.
Fundamentally, flexibility in the future will no longer be about offering flexible work hours within a framework, it is and will be about being truly agile, releasing the shackles of constraint and letting go of control. Let your people decide how, where and when they want to work. That trust will be paid back time and time again.
Does being flexible actually work? In our experience the answer is emphatically yes:
o the EX (Employee Experience) at Emberson is a key pillar of our competitive advantage
o we have profitable growth, year in, year out
o we are better balanced with our wider stakeholders e.g. family, friends, peers and communities
 ‘The impact of physical exercise on convergent and divergent thinking’ Lorena S Colzato, Ayca Szapora, Justine N Pannekoek, B Hommel December 2013